The Clark Sisters

aka The Sentimentalists

Photo of The Clark Sisters
  • Known Members

    Ann Clark
    Jean Clark
    Mary Clark
    Peggy Clark
  • Orchestras

    Tommy Dorsey
    Dick Robertson

Hailing from North Dakota, the Clark Sisters spent most of the 1940s working for Tommy Dorsey before starting a moderately successful career of their own. Marriages and births, however, took their toll on the act, and by mid-1950 the vocal group had disbanded. The real-life sisters made a comeback in the late 1950s, releasing three successful and highly-unusual albums in the early 1960s.

Originally a trio, the Clark Sisters sang for Ran Wilde’s orchestra in mid-1941. By mid-1942, the group had expanded to a quartet and joined Dick Robertson’s band before going out on their own later that year. In early 1943, they joined Dorsey’s orchestra, replacing the recently departed Pied Pipers. Dorsey renamed them the Sentimentalists, after his nickname, the Sentimental Gentleman of Swing. Critics at the time often compared them to the Pied Pipers in less-than-favorable ways. They remained with Dorsey until April 1946 when they left, with his blessing, to star in the bandleader’s Mutual radio sustainer program, Endorsed by Dorsey.

The sisters sang on a transcription disk for Enoch Light soon after leaving the band. In early 1947, they joined singer Johnny Desmond on a Mutual network radio program sponsored by the Carr-Consolidated biscuit company, and in mid-1947 they recorded two sides solo on the MGM label. That same year they also began a professional relationship with singer Jack Smith, singing on his radio show and backing him on Capitol sessions through early 1950. They worked with Dorsey again in late 1947, recording several songs with the orchestra both under their own name and as the Sentimentalists before the American Federation of Musicians’ recording ban of 1948 came into effect. They also recorded on Victor with Russ Case.

In fall 1948, sister Jean married Vern Friley, star trombonist with Ray McKinley’s band, and left her sisters to join McKinley as female vocalist under her married name. She remained with McKinley until July 1949, when she left due to pregnancy, giving birth to a son. The couple had a further child, a daughter, in late 1950. In summer 1951, Jean was attacked in her home by what was “believed to be a sex maniac rather than a burglar.” The intruder threatened to kill her if she cried out. When she screamed, he hit her several times with an andiron. She suffered a brain concussion and skull fractures. Vern arrived home after a night’s work to find his wife being loaded into an ambulance.

After Jean’s departure, the remaining three sisters carried on, backing Bob Hope, uncredited, in late 1948 on his Capitol movie tie-in version of the song “Buttons and Bows.” Births and family life, however, took their toll and by mid-1950 they had stopped performing as a group. In September 1948, Peggy married clarinetist Willie Schwartz, who worked on Bob Crosby’s radio program. Mary had wed Dorsey saxophone player Bruce Brannon in 1945 and gave birth to a son in July 1950, followed by a daughter in 1954. Only Ann remained active as a singer. Married to tenor saxophonist Pete Terry, she formed her own vocal group, the Dream-Makers, who appeared with Frank DeVol’s short-lived progressive band in late 1950 before vanishing from the active record.

All four sisters emerged again in early 1958, signing with the Dot label and recording a nostalgic LP of swing tunes. They made a second such album the following year. In 1960, they signed with Coral and produced an interesting series of albums that mixed swing, modern jazz and turn-of-the-century songs, beginning with Beauty Shop Beat that year, which focused on barbershop quartet music, and an album in 1961 that remade songs from the 1890s. A third Coral album in 1962 celebrated the great singing groups of the 1940s.


  1. “Ran Wilde Band Turns Acrobats.” Down Beat 15 May 1941: 21.
  2. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 9 May 1942: 27.
  3. “Act-Units-Attractions Routes.” Billboard 24 Oct. 1942: 13.
  4. “Act-Units-Attractions Routes.” Billboard 14 Nov. 1942: 14.
  5. “TD Denver Orph's First Flesh Act in 4 Years.” Billboard 1 May 1943: 20.
  6. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 1 Nov. 1943: 5.
  7. “Bands Dug by the Beat: Tommy Dorsey.” Down Beat 15 Nov. 1943: 16.
  8. “T. Dorsey Plans 12-Concert Tour.” Billboard 27 May 1944: 13.
  9. “Tied Notes.” Down Beat 1 Apr. 1945: 10.
  10. “Sentimentalists Now Clarks in Switch to Dorsey Airseg.” Billboard 4 May 1946: 47.
  11. Advertisement. Billboard 8 Jun. 1946: 17.
  12. “Desmond Finds New Sponsor.” Down Beat 12 Feb. 1947: 9.
  13. “Advanced Record Releases.” Billboard 3 May 1947: 32.
  14. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 5 Jul. 1947: 131.
  15. “Records Most-Played on the Air.” Billboard 18 Oct. 1947: 123.
  16. “Honor Roll of Hits.” Billboard 19 Jun. 1948: 34.
  17. Ronan, Eddie. “Musicians, Vocalists Get Nod On Old, New Airers.” Down Beat 20 Oct. 1948: 8.
  18. “Tied Notes.” Down Beat 20 Oct. 1948: 10.
  19. “Ex-Clark.” Down Beat 3 Nov. 1948: 6.
  20. “Diggin' the Discs.” Down Beat 3 Nov. 1948: 17.
  21. “McKinley Kindles Spirit In His Band.” Down Beat 17 Nov. 1948: 2.
  22. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 18 Dec. 1948: 35.
  23. “Honor Roll of Hits.” Billboard 25 Dec. 1948: 28.
  24. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 19 Feb. 1949: 34.
  25. “McKinley Makes Sax, Trumpet Changes.” Down Beat 8 Apr. 1949: 2.
  26. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 7 May 1949: 121.
  27. “Sidemen Switches.” Down Beat 29 Jul. 1949: 4.
  28. “Births.” Billboard 5 Aug. 1950: 48.
  29. “New Numbers.” Down Beat 8 Sep. 1950: 10.
  30. “DeVol Comes Up With A Progressive-Tinged Band In Premiere At Palladium.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1950: 3.
  31. “Strictly Ad Lib.” Down Beat 29 Dec. 1950: 5.
  32. “Jean Friley Condition Serious Following Attack By Prowler.” Down Beat 13 Jul. 1951: 1.
  33. “Births.” Billboard 9 Jan. 1954: 38.
  34. “Dot Signs Up New Talent, Buys Masters.” Billboard 28 Apr. 1958: 2.
  35. Advertisement. Billboard 19 Jan. 1959: 29.
  36. “Reviews of This Week's LP's.” Billboard 8 Feb. 1960: 29.
  37. “Special Merit Spotlights.” Billboard 20 Feb. 1961: 24.
  38. “Reviews of New Albums.” Billboard 23 Jun. 1962: 31.